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Our Digital Team have put together a brilliant guide to Privacy Sandbox, Googles alternative to 3rd part cookies…..

Privacy Sandbox – what is it & what does it all mean?

With so many up-coming changes road mapped by Google for 2021, we have put together the following guide to help advertisers and brands de-bunk the tech chat and help paint a clear picture of what Google is trying to achieve over the coming months.

The end is nigh for 3rd party cookies on Chrome…

With Safari & Mozilla already phasing out 3rd party cookies, Google have said that they will do the same by 2022: “Users are demanding greater privacy–including transparency, choice, and control over how their data is used – and it’s clear the web ecosystem needs to evolve to meet these increasing demands.”

But what is it getting replaced with?  The answer is far from simple.  Google needs to find a way to offer users greater privacy without a negative impact on advertisers’ online business.

Operation Privacy Sandbox

Historically, websites have relied on 3rd party cookies to track interactions, ad views, clicks and conversions on other websites.  This gives advertisers the ability to track user intent & interests to serve them more targeted and relevant advertising.

All seems great, right?

Wrong – the 3rd party supply chain can often be intricate, and users are sometimes not aware of who has access to their data and what it is being used for, which is giving Google a privacy headache…

Google are pitching its Privacy Sandbox as an alternative to third party cookies, replacing them with 5 application programme interfaces (API’s); Trust API, the privacy budget API, Conversion Measurement API, Federated Learning of Cohorts & PIGIN (private interest groups, including noise).

Advertisers will receive anonymised signals from each API from within a user’s Google Chrome browser based on an individual’s browsing habits.  Storing and processing all user data in the browser means it will stay on the user’s device and is privacy compliant.

One of the biggest changes we are anticipating with the roll-out of Googles Privacy Sandbox is the switch from third party data (data sourced from other websites) to first party data (data sourced on your own website), and how valuable that then becomes to advertisers and publishers.

FLoC (Federated Cohorts of Learning)

The Privacy Sandbox initiative is still having its substance tested and that will continue until it is rolled out in 2022.  The latest API to come under scrutiny is the Federal Learning of Cohorts; Google has claimed that FLoC has the ability to drive 95% of conversions compared with cookie-based advertising.

Chetna Bindra, Google’s senior product manager has said that “the performance we’re seeing with FLoC shows that it’s nearly as effective as third-party cookies.”

Privacy is also not an issue.  FLoC groups users into cohorts based on their browsing behaviour so that individuals are, at least theoretically, indistinguishable from the other people in their cohort.

Testing will continue across all aspects of the Privacy Sandbox – The Chrome 90 release in April will see the first controls for the Privacy Sandbox implementation and FLoC-based cohorts will be available for the public in March.

What does this mean for consumers, publishers & advertisers?

The reality is Google cannot please everyone with these changes.  There are obvious flaws & loopholes that are being exploited through third party cookie tracking and the tech is old and tired.

For consumers, the changes are very much welcome – better privacy of their data (in theory) and no annoying privacy policy pop-ups to accept.

It is unclear at this stage what exactly will change for advertisers, only that there will almost certainly be changes.  Any data sourced from third party cookies will naturally be removed from advertising platforms.  The switch to first party data is significant though and advertisers could end up with a much more stable and reliable view of user behaviour across the ecosystem.

Many publishers are well ahead of Googles proposed plans and have already made changes to start collecting their own first party data, preventing such a reliance on third party cookie tracking and it gives them a far more accurate set of data.

However, Google’s motives are coming under fire about why they are now choosing to change the way we collect and use people’s data; if the industry is dependent on Google creating this solution, it gives them control over an important element of the advertising ecosystem.  And by forcing the ad market to adopt Chromes first party solution, spend on third party platforms is likely to dry-up and get moved across to Google.

So, is this a change that benefits Google or the end-user?  

The next few months will be very interesting.  Testing will continue (Google are openly asking for input & feedback from publishers/advertisers), and the first roll-out on Google Ads in Q2 will give advertisers, brands, and publishers some important insight into how things are developing.

If your advertising strategies are heavily reliant on third party data, start considering alternatives now – contact Mostly Media and speak to our Digital team today on 01225 302270.